Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin
The Earl of Godolphin
|Lord High Treasurer|
8 May 1702 – 11 August 1710
|Preceded by||The Earl of Carlisle|
as First Lord of the Treasury Commission
|Succeeded by||The Earl Poulett|
as First Lord of the Treasury Commission
|First Lord of the Treasury|
9 December 1700 – 30 December 1701
|Preceded by||The Earl Tankerville|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Carlisle|
15 November 1690 – 1 June 1699
|Monarch||William III and Mary II|
|Preceded by||Sir John Lowther|
|Succeeded by||Charles Montagu|
9 September 1684 – 16 February 1685
|Preceded by||The Earl of Rochester|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Rochester|
as Lord High Treasurer
|Member of Parliament|
September 1679 – 1685
Serving with Sir Vyell Vyvyan (1679–1681)
Serving with Charles Godolphin (1681–1685)
|Preceded by||Sir William Godolphin|
|Succeeded by||Sidney Godolphin|
1665 – February 1679
Serving with Sir William Godolphin
|Preceded by||Sir Peter Killigrew|
|Succeeded by||Sir Vyell Vyvyan|
15 June 1645
Breage, Cornwall, Kingdom of England
|Died||15 September 1712 (aged 67)|
St Albans, Hertfordshire, England, Kingdom of Great Britain
Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, KG, PC (15 June 1645 – 15 September 1712) was a leading British politician of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He was a Privy Councillor and Secretary of State for the Northern Department before attaining real power as First Lord of the Treasury. He was instrumental in negotiating and passing the Acts of Union 1707 with Scotland, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain.
He had many other roles, including that of Governor of Scilly.
Family and early career
He came from an ancient Cornish family, being the son of Sir Francis Godolphin (1605–1667) and nephew of the poet Sidney Godolphin. At the Restoration he was introduced into the royal household by King Charles II of England, whose favourite he had become, and he also entered the House of Commons as member for Helston, in Cornwall. Although he very seldom addressed the House, and, when he did so, only in the briefest manner, he "gradually acquired a reputation as its chief if not its only financial authority". In 1668 he was a successful intermediary between the King and his sister Henrietta Anne (wife of the Duke of Orléans), in order to secure an agreement with King Louis XIV of France, where Charles would reject his Dutch allies in return for French money. In 1669 he was awarded a 31-year lease on all tin mines in Rialton and Retraigh in Cornwall. In 1670 Godolphin was appointed Groom of the Bedchamber along with a pension of £500 per annum, holding the post until 1678. The King said that he valued Godolphin because he was "never in the way and never out of the way".
Charles appointed Godolphin envoy-extraordinary to Louis XIV in 1672 in order to reassure the French King of Charles's allegiance before Louis attacked the Dutch. Godolphin was with Louis in the field during the Franco-Dutch War but was unimpressed with Louis's capabilities as a military commander.
In March 1679 he was appointed a member of the Privy Council, and in the September following he was promoted, along with Viscount Hyde (afterwards Earl of Rochester) and the Earl of Sunderland, to the chief management of affairs.
Exclusion and revolution
Although he voted for the Exclusion Bill in 1680 – which, if successfully enacted, would have prevented the Catholic Duke of York from assuming the throne – he was continued in office after the dismissal of Sunderland, and in September 1684 he was created Baron Godolphin of Rialton, and succeeded Rochester as First Lord of the Treasury. After the accession of James II he was made chamberlain to the queen, Mary of Modena, and, along with Rochester and Sunderland, enjoyed the king's special confidence. In 1687 he was named commissioner of the treasury. Although Parliament had voted to grant James II £6,000,000, Godolphin was involved in the payment of approximately £125,000 to James II by Louis XIV, in return for James's support for Louis. The historian David Ogg has written that "James and his two ministers, Rochester and Godolphin, were prepared to barter the independence of England for a sum little more than a sixtieth part of that granted by the national legislature".
He was present at the birth of the Old Pretender, but during the ensuing controversy as to whether or not the birth was genuine, he said diplomatically that he had no useful information to contribute, as he was too far from the bed to see anything. He was one of the council of five appointed by King James to represent him in London, when he went to join the army after the landing of William of Orange, in England, and, along with Lord Halifax and Lord Nottingham, he was afterwards appointed a commissioner to negotiate with the prince. On the accession of William, though he only obtained the third seat at the treasury board, he was in control of affairs. He retired in March 1690, but, was recalled in the following November and appointed first lord.
Career under William III and Queen Anne
While holding this office he for several years continued, in conjunction with John Churchill (the future Duke of Marlborough), a secret correspondence with James II, and is said to have disclosed to James intelligence regarding the intended expedition against Brest. Godolphin was not only a Tory by inheritance, but was thought to have a romantic admiration for the wife of James II. After Fenwick's confession in 1696 regarding the attempted assassination of William III, Godolphin, who was compromised, tendered his resignation; but when the Tories came into power in 1700, he was again appointed First Lord of the Treasury. Though not technically a favourite with Queen Anne, he was, after her accession, appointed Lord Treasurer, on the strong recommendation of Marlborough, and he retained this office for eight years. Sarah Churchill later wrote that if Anne came to learn anything about politics and statecraft, it was entirely due to Godolphin's mentoring. In 1704 he was also made a Knight of the Garter, and in December 1706 he was created Viscount Rialton and Earl of Godolphin.
Though a Tory, he had an active share in the intrigues which gradually led to the predominance of the Whigs in alliance with Marlborough: the two were nicknamed"the Duumvirs". The influence of the Marlboroughs with the queen was, however, gradually supplanted by that of Abigail Masham and Robert Harley (later Earl of Oxford), and with the fortunes of the Marlboroughs those of Godolphin were indissolubly united. The Queen initially relied heavily on his guidance, but relations became strained: eventually when he threatened to resign, she said coldly "Do as you please... there are many to take your place". The services of both Marlborough and Godolphin were so appreciated by the nation that they were able for a time to regard the loss of the queen's favour with indifference, and even in 1708 to procure the expulsion of Harley from office; but after the High Tory reaction which followed the impeachment of Henry Sacheverell, who abused Godolphin under the name of Volpone, the queen made use of the opportunity to get rid of Marlborough by abruptly dismissing Godolphin from office on 7 August 1710, in tones as cold and ungrateful as she later used with Marlborough. He died two years later and his estate was worth more than £12,000. He is buried in the south aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey. On the wall is a bust of him by the sculptor Francis Bird.
Marriage and succession
On 16 May 1675 Godolphin married Margaret Blagge, daughter of Thomas Blagge, the pious lady whose life was written by John Evelyn in his book The Life of Mrs Godolphin. She died in childbirth in 1678 bearing his only son, and Godolphin never remarried. Margaret is buried at Breage, Cornwall, the spot marked by a small brass floor plaque erected by the Duke of Leeds. Progeny:
- Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin (1678–1766)
Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin by Godfrey Kneller
Margaret Blagge, wife of Sidney Godolphin, portrait by Matthew Dixon
The Whig historian Lord Macaulay said of Godolphin in 1848:
He was laborious, clear-headed, and profoundly versed in the details of finance. Every government, therefore, found him an useful servant; and there was nothing in his opinions or in his character which could prevent him from serving any government. “Sidney Godolphin,” said Charles, “is never in the way, and never out of the way.” This pointed remark goes far to explain Godolphin's extraordinary success in life. He acted at different times with both the great political parties; but he never shared in the passions of either. Like most men of cautious tempers and prosperous fortunes, he had a strong disposition to support whatever existed. He disliked revolutions, and, for the same reason for which he disliked revolutions, he disliked counter-revolutions. His deportment was remarkably grave and reserved, but his personal tastes were low and frivolous; and most of the time which he could save from public business was spent in racing, cardplaying, and cockfighting.
In the opinion of Julian Hoppitt, Godolphin "tirelessly oversaw the dramatic expansion of key areas of the State, providing an element of integrity, continuity, and predictability in a very uncertain environment. He was in a very real sense Marlborough's partner and together the duumvirs oversaw the glory days of the War of the Spanish Succession. In a very real sense Marlborough's dismissal and Godolphin's death the following year marked the end of an era". Roy Sundstrom has asserted that Godolphin is an important figure in the history of England because:
[…] first he raised the money required to blunt French hegemony in Europe and thus preserved the British constitution and the protestant monarchy; second he was instrumental in planning the military and diplomatic strategy that ultimately defeated Louis XIV; third, as lord high treasurer, he worked to make the Treasury more efficient and attempted to weed out corruption—the Treasury as he left it served England well for the remainder of the eighteenth century; fourth he was instrumental in negotiating and passing the Act of Union with Scotland which created the united kingdom of Great Britain; and fifth he negotiated the creation of a unified East India Company, which would be instrumental in establishing British rule in India.
- Roy A. Sundstrom, ‘Godolphin, Sidney, first earl of Godolphin (1645–1712)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009, accessed 25 Jan 2011.
- Roy A. Sundstrom, ‘Godolphin, Sidney, first earl of Godolphin (1645–1712)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn., May 2009, accessed 31 May 2016.
- David Ogg, England in the Reigns of James II and William III (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 158.
- Robert H. George, 'The Financial Relations of Louis XIV and James II', The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Sep., 1931), pp. 406, 410-411.
- "The life of Mrs. Godolphin - John Evelyn, Samuel Wilberforce - Google Books". Google.co.uk. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
- Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second. Popular Edition in Two Volumes. Volume I (London: Longmans, 1889), p. 125.
- Julian Hoppitt, A Land of Liberty? England 1689-1727 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), p. 126.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 174–175.
- Dickinson, William Calvin (1990). Sidney Godolphin, Lord Treasurer, 1702-10. Edwin Meller Press.
- Snyder, H. L. (1975). The Marlborough–Godolphin correspondence. 3 vols.
- Sundstrom, Roy A. (1993). Sidney Godolphin: Servant of the State. Dover: University of Delaware Press.
- Hoppitt, Julian (2000). A Land of Liberty? England 1689-1727. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Macaulay, Thomas Babington (1889). The History of England from the Accession of James the Second. Two Volumes. London: Longmans.
- Ogg, David (1969). England in the Reigns of James II and William III. London: Oxford University Press.
- Sundstrom, Roy A. (May 2009) . "Godolphin, Sidney, first earl of Godolphin (1645–1712)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
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